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Days of Future Passwords

abril 3, 2019

The Windows Insider Podcast is back for a new season, starting with a two-part episode. First, Jason chats with the Windows Hello team about security innovations that are rendering passwords obsolete and making authentication safer and easier than ever. Nadya Amirchoupani and Anastasiya Tarnouskaya give their thoughts on why great security features also create a pleasant user experience. They also share a sneak peek into the future direction of Windows Hello, biometrics, and the authentication space.

Next, Chief Ninja Cat Dona Sarkar joins Jason for a conversation about how millions of Windows Insiders around the globe help make Windows 10 the best product it can be. Dona also shares an inside look into on how the Windows Insider Program has evolved from its early beginnings and exciting new possibilities for the future.

Windows Insider Podcast Episode 18

(Music.)

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: It's very cool there, because not only is the user not using a password, the password just doesn't exist.

DONA SARKAR: To our surprise, we had 2 million people sign up in just a matter of weeks, because people really want to have a hand in the technology they use.

JASON HOWARD: Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast, where Windows Insiders and leaders of Microsoft discuss the latest in tech trends, careers and innovation.

You just heard a few snippets from our special guests. We have the Windows Hello team here in the studio to talk about protecting your machines and devices and how tools like Windows Hello are creating a future where passwords will be obsolete.

Dona Sarkar, Chief Ninja Cat of the Windows Insider Program will join us for the second half of this episode when we get real about what it's like to listen to millions of Windows Insiders and shape the future of the world's most popular operating system.

I'm your host Jason Howard, and you're listening to Episode 18: Days of Future Passwords.

As a reminder, if you're not yet a Windows Insider, you can register for free at Insider.Windows.com. You'll get access to upcoming Windows features that haven't been released to the broader public, as well as exclusive opportunities to learn, grow your network, and experience more of Microsoft from the inside out.

We're so excited to be back after taking an extended break since our last episode. Season two is going to be great and I'm excited to get started, so let's jump right in.

Kicking off this episode we'll have Nadya Amirchoupani and Anastasiya Tarnouskaya from the Windows Hello team.

(Music.)

JASON HOWARD: Welcome to the show. Would you please introduce yourselves to our audience?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Sure. Thank you for having us. My name is Anastasiya, I'm a program manager on the enterprise and security team. And the thing that my team works on is getting our users to a point where they are very secure on Windows. And then we also want to make sure that, in addition to being secure, they have a very pleasant user experience.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: And I'm Nadya. I'm a product marketing manager that focuses on consumer privacy and security. So, me and my team work with Anastasiya and her team on what is coming, the latest and greatest security features, and then how we can take that to market, tell the story for our consumers and make sure that with whatever our solutions are we're really addressing those consumer unmet needs.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. Very important stuff it sounds like you're working on. So, let me just jump right in here, right? Why are passwords inherently weak and frustrating for users to use, right? Like one of the things we constantly hear about is use two factor authentication or use biometrics or use, you know, facial recognition, something, something, something. So, what's up with passwords, why are they becoming archaic?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, That's a great question. So, when my team looks at passwords, we think about them as being weak from kind of two perspectives, the first one, like you mentioned, from a security standpoint. The way passwords are designed, they're just inherently very weak, because users have so many different websites that they use. There's their social media, their banking, and they have to come up with these super complex passwords for each one of them with a bunch of special characters. They end up reusing them on all these different websites. So, then if just one of the passwords is compromised, well, then all of that user's accounts are potentially at risk.

The other thing with passwords is that they can be phished. Sometimes you get these sites that are pretending to be like your banking website, for example, and in some cases, users will accidentally enter their credentials into that site and then, bam, all of a sudden, that user's account can be accessed from anywhere in the world by that attacker that now has that user's password. So, that's kind of from a security standpoint.

And then from a usability standpoint they just get really frustrating for users to use, because again, they have to come up with a new one for all these different websites. Some websites have one requirement with special characters, another website says it has to be like 20 characters long. So, it just becomes very frustrating for users as well.

JASON HOWARD: So, having covered that with passwords, one of the things that at least I'll ask, and I'm sure, you know, others that are listening in probably have questions about, is this whole multifactor authentication, two-factor authentication, MFA, TFA stuff, right? Everybody loves acronyms of course. Knowing that that's kind of an extra step to help make things a little secure, but what are kind of the repercussions of that, right? Because it creates some usability, takes a little longer to get through. Can you tell me about that?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, definitely. So, you know that a second factor like your phone where, for example, when you're signing into your bank with your password, maybe they'll ask you to get some sort of SMS code sent to your phone, and then you enter it into the banking website to sign in with a second factor, yeah, it's definitely much more secure than a password on its own, but then you have this whole extra hassle of needing your phone there as well.

So, with the password replacement tools that we're working on, we're hoping for them to both be more secure than a password, but also easy for people to use, so that it doesn't feel like a huge burden just to sign into your banking website.

JASON HOWARD: Makes sense. So, knowing this, right, having talked about passwords, multifactor, more broadly like what can consumers do to protect themselves? What are some steps that you would recommend? And, of course, let's start from the Windows aspect, like what can we do there?

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah, so that's a good question. And when we think about password-less, there's a couple of solutions that we have available to consumers.

Before we touch on those, though, I do want to call out that attaching your Microsoft Account to Windows is the first step to kickstart those enhanced security products.

So, what exactly is a Microsoft account? Well, it's a way that you can sync and access your files across Microsoft products and services online. So, if something is saved to your OneDrive account for example via your Microsoft account, you can access that across any device.

So, the password-less solutions that we have then, Windows Hello is first and foremost I think what people probably think of. And when you think about locking your PC, locking with a password is not the same thing as true device and account protection.

And so, at Microsoft we even have a series of security promises that we've made to our customers, which is one of which is that identities can't be compromised, they can't be spoofed, and they can't be stolen, and that's really what Anastasiya's team is here to focus on.

So, in order to fulfill those promises, we really focus on secure biometrics and multifactor authentication to ensure that theft of credentials or your identity is not possible, so that's not something that the consumer has to worry about.

So, this is where Windows Hello comes into play. When people often think of Windows Hello, most of the time, they're probably going to think of facial recognition, but there's multiple ways that you can use Windows Hello.

So, facial recognition is of course one of them. There's also a fingerprint reader. So, both of those require your device to be hardware capable. But there's also a PIN. Any Windows 10 device is PIN capable, so even if you don't have the hardware capabilities for face and fingerprint, you can still take advantage of the enhanced security with Windows Hello using your PIN.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, and expanding on that one a little bit, so Nadya mentioned that Windows Hello is multifactor, and a PIN is multifactor. So, a question we get from a lot of our customers is, you know, I'm just entering these digits into my device, it still kind of feels like a password, so how is this really multifactor? And so, the answer for that is because your PIN is tied to your device, you need—it's something that you have, which is your device, and it's something that you know which is your PIN.

The other kind of pillar of multifactor is something that you are, so that's kind of how it works for biometrics, but that's really kind of the reason a PIN is still a strong multifactor credential and it makes it more secure than a password. Just one of the reasons it's more secure than a password.

So, unlike a password, your Windows Hello credentials can only be used on your device. People can't use obviously your face, because it's your face, or your PIN to sign into your account from any other device.

And then for some of our more technical audience, this is because Windows Hello uses an asymmetric key pair authentication model where a biometric gesture or a PIN is used to decrypt a key, which is then used to access your Microsoft account resources.

This is different than a password, which is constantly being sent back and forth across the

wire. And with a password, if it's compromised, your account can be accessed from anywhere in the world. With a PIN or biometrics, that's simply not the case.

JASON HOWARD: It cuts out the passing back and forth, so everything happens locally so there's nothing to be sniffed or caught in the middle?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Exactly. Your PIN, your biometrics is all tied very specifically to your device, so that it can only be used with your device.

JASON HOWARD: All right.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: So, the other solution that we'll quickly touch on is the Microsoft Authenticator app. When you think of Windows Hello, think of that as our first-party strong authentication solution. And then the Microsoft Authenticator app is really our third-party multifactor solution. So it works great across iOS and Android devices. You can download it from your mobile app store.

Windows Hello, a great way to break free from passwords when you're on your Windows PC. The Microsoft Authenticator app, great password-less alternative when you're on mobile. So, we've taken the step to expand password-less to be beyond just Microsoft properties.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome, because obviously with the footprint we have between our apps and services, right, it's not focused just on Windows anymore. One of the things that's happened over the past years, plural, right, is the expansion into other platforms, be they mobile or, you know, like whoever would have thought the day we'd see Linux as a subsystem running Windows, right? Like our footprint continues to expand. So, it's nice to see that we're putting things in place to help users stay secure, regardless of what platform they're on or where they're at.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, exactly. Like whenever users are using their Microsoft account identities, we definitely want it to be a very smooth and seamless transition between whatever devices they're using.

JASON HOWARD: We've talked a little bit about Windows Hello, right? As important as it is into the whole security realm of what we're working on, can we talk a little bit more about the features of Hello and how it's helping our users?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, for sure. So, in addition to some of the security benefits that we have, Windows Hello just provides users with a really awesome experience—I think at least, I might be a little bit biased—to sign into Windows. So, biometric capable devices in particular, it's just a really fun, personal way to sign in. Like personally again, it sounds cheesy, but I really like signing into my device every morning by just looking over at my computer and then it just magically works to sign in. It's really nice.

Another great benefit is that when you sign into Windows with your Microsoft account, Windows Hello actually acts as this bootstrapping mechanism to give you single sign on into all your apps and services.

What that means is when you sign into Windows with Windows Hello, because it is strong authentication, when you open up all your apps, like for example, mail, maybe OneNote, all the information that you have tied to that app like from your cloud identity are just pulled down and those apps light up and they're kind of ready for you to use. So, it's really nice there.

And then lastly, the thing that I just wanted to touch on is in some of our more recent Windows Insider builds we added support so that you can add a completely password-less Microsoft Account to Windows, the example there being a phone number account. So, if you go into the mobile version of Word or Excel, you can create a Microsoft account with just your phone number, which is very exciting, but there is no password at all. It's not like we're just not showing it on Windows, it doesn't even exist on the cloud side.

Then, once that user adds that account to Windows the very first time they authenticate with an SMS roundtrip. but after that they can setup Windows Hello and all their subsequent sign in experiences just work. It's very cool there, because not only is the user not using a password, the password just doesn't exist, which is something we're very excited about.

JASON HOWARD: At that point there's nothing left to hack, crack, spoof, get phished.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Exactly. It's definitely the direction we want to move into in the future.

JASON HOWARD: So, that makes me want to ask you another very interesting question, right? I know some folks that are very concerned about the concept of using biometric info in any fashion, right? They absolutely refuse to do this. So they wouldn't even, at least at this point in time, consider using fingerprints or an iris scan or Hello to do the facial recognition to do any of this login, even though it is more secure and, you know, what we've discussed so far. So, what would you tell a user that's worried that their data, you know, this biometric data is going to be collected and stored and potentially used for some nefarious purpose?

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah, so the first thing that I would say so that is Microsoft does not collect your biodata, we just don't. If you're using Windows Hello, your biodata is stored locally on your device. Just as we were talking about how your PIN is stored locally on your device, so is your biodata. And same with if you're using—we'll get to this in a little bit, but a security key. So, it's a device that you can plug into your PC as an additional authentication method.

If you're using Windows Hello, it stays on your device. If you're using a security key that has biometric authentication, it stays on the security key.

So, to your point I think you touched on earlier that a password is constantly sent back and forth over the wire and can be intercepted, that risk is not applicable when we're talking about biodata.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. So, obviously, Windows Hello didn't get to where it's at today, right, it wasn't like, oh, hey, a feature release, and we magically got it right the first try and we're here, right? It's been around for a while, right, Windows 10 has been around for what, four-plus years at this point? Well, publicly released for, what, 15, 18, so coming up on four years now. I'm sitting here having to do math while I'm trying to talk.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: It's very impressive math. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: How has Windows Hello as a feature, like how has it grown, how has it evolved as biometrics in general has evolved? What are some of the changes that we've seen?

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah, so biometrics really, it's redefining the expectations around authentication. As we've talked, it's not only more secure but it's also so much more efficient. When you're using Windows Hello for example, you can sign in three times faster than when you're using a password. And when we're thinking about people's busy days, that three times faster really adds up over the course of the number of times that you have to sign in.

JASON HOWARD: You're not going to misspell your fingerprint. (Laughter.)

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Exactly. Yeah. There's nothing to remember or forget for that matter. There's nothing to type in. So, you literally just need to be yourself and you're good to go.

Customer feedback around Windows Hello has also been incredibly positive. We hear from people that once they get used to using Windows Hello, whether it's bio or face, they really couldn't imagine going back to using a password.

So, we hear things like, "Wow, it's easy, it's practical, it's reliable. I just open my laptop and it signs me in. It's like magic." And things like, "It's security without remembering a long, complicated password." So, all the things that we push on, people are starting to experiencing for themselves and they're really seeing the benefit in that.

The other thing that I do want to call out is there are multiple ways in which you can use Windows Hello. What we've been talking about thus far has been focused on the in-chassis option, so if you buy a PC that has the webcam or the fingerprint reader already installed. But if you don't, you can still purchase a Windows Hello certified peripheral to make your Windows Hello device biocapable if it wasn't already.

So, peripheral, it's just it's an external webcam or fingerprint dongle that you plug into your PC and you're good to go. So, while the in-chassis options are growing, right now we have over 300 PCs across OEMs all over the world with in-chassis options, but if you don't have one of those 300 PCs, we've still got you covered in terms of our peripherals.

So, we work with really, really great peripheral partners to make sure that this is possible.  If you're interested in a fingerprint ready, for example, we have great options with Kensington or BIO-Key as some of our partners. For face, we have the category leading Logitech Brio webcam.

JASON HOWARD: Which is the webcam we use for the monthly webcast that we do.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: There you go.

JASON HOWARD: Just in case anybody was curious.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Just a little plug.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: What a small world.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah. And we even have an eye tracker, which people might not know about. But one of our partners there is Tobii with their 4C eye tracker.

Don't get me wrong, this is not an exhaustive list of peripheral partners and it's constantly growing and evolving, but from a security standpoint, just to be clear, we hold our peripheral partners to the same security standards that we do as if you're using it via in-chassis.

JASON HOWARD: Interestingly, right, you're talking about, you know, these third-party peripherals and connecting and whatever. Is there some sort of a way that a user or a consumer that wants to purchase one of these knows which one is going to work, right? Like you mentioned the Brio as one of the webcams. Is there a list of webcams? Is there something that I should look for on the box? Is there a sticker on there? Is there a logo? Can I like search the manufacturers' website and sort to see which ones are or are not, like let's just use Hello, like Hello certified? Is there some sort of something that a consumer can look for?

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah, so all the partners that I just mentioned, we do have them posted on the Windows Hello feature page. If you go to Microsoft.com and navigate to Windows Hello, you'll see the peripheral partners there. And then there are links to where you can go to purchase it.

To your question about whether there's a logo, there is. In order to be Windows Hello certified, they go through pretty extensive testing that they have to pass. And once they pass that, they have a Windows Hello badge that will be on their packaging.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: And Nadya actually just reminded me of one other thing. So, I don't know if you guys have had the chance --

JASON HOWARD: Wait, there's one more thing.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah. Well, actually just this week there were a bunch of news articles posted about HoloLens 2 coming out down the road, and I was reading through those articles, and one of the things that jumped out at me is that HoloLens 2 is also using Windows Hello. I believe for them they're using iris to sign in there, but yeah, just another great example of some cool Windows Hello devices.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. We talked a lot about how this has evolved, how biometrics has evolved, what we're doing currently, but let's look forward just a little bit. Like what's out on the horizon? Like are there other authentication scenarios that you all are considering? Is Windows Hello going to get woven in somewhere? What's coming next that you can talk about without giving away too much of the stuff?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Without giving away all the juicy secrets. Yeah, for sure. In previous years we have been mostly focusing on making sure that the experience when you sign into Windows with Windows Hello is really fantastic, so that when you're unlocking your device or using your apps, perhaps making a purchase in the Microsoft store, you can just use Windows Hello and it's a really fantastic experience.

But now in our most recent Windows Insider builds, you can also use Windows Hello to sign into Outlook for example in the Edge browser. And so, you can definitely try that out if you're interested. But all you'd have to do is have Windows Hello setup, open up Edge, go to Outlook.com and then you could use that to sign in.

And then down the road we're envisioning that this could be used to sign into other sites, for example, banking, e-commerce as well. That's something that we're very excited about.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. As we wrap here, any parting thoughts or awesome tidbits you want to leave our listenership with?

Obviously, I mean, I'll say this right out, I don't mean to steal your thunder but, you know, give Hello a try, right? It sounds like it simplifies things. I mean, I know it does for me. It's so fast for me to just drop my laptop on my desk at work, type in a PIN and I'm rocking and rolling. Like, I don't have to retype my password, like I don't have to misspell my password five times before I'm logging in. Not to mention the old school, you know, you do it on your phone wrong a few times and it's like, oh, well, now enter this other thing that you're probably going to misspell so we know it's actually you, right?

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, definitely. I mean, with security products it's always a huge balance between security and usability. And that's one of the things that we're super proud of with Windows Hello, because not only is it a more secure way to sign into your device, but it's also a more usable way because it's faster and it's just a fun thing to use.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Yeah. And I'll just add to that, that we understand that changing habits is hard, and so we get it, we do. But we are encouraging people to really just try Windows Hello, because we feel strongly that it is more secure but it also, to Anastasiya's point, increased usability and that user experience. So, give it a try once and we're confident that you'll never go back to passwords.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. Well, Anastasiya, Nadya, thank you both so much for being here. It's been a great chat. I've learned a lot and hopefully listeners have learned a lot as well.

NADYA AMIRCHOUPANI: Thanks for having us.

ANASTASIYA TARNOUSKAYA: Yeah, thank you very much.

JASON HOWARD: Next up, we shift gears so we can chat with Chief Ninja Cat Dona Sakar to share what's in store for the future of the Windows Insider program. Welcome Dona. For the as yet unfamiliar, would you share a brief intro on what you do at Microsoft?

DONA SARKAR: That is a very good question, Jason, what do I do around here, other than yell at you.

JASON HOWARD: I was going to say.

DONA SARKAR: Other than yell at you and watch you ignore me. I would say Insidering really has three parts to it. One is going out into the community, whether it's virtual or physical, and understanding what our customers, our top customers, our biggest fans, our most tech enthusiast people who are our Windows Insiders, 16 million of them, are saying about our products.

And that's not just Windows, it's Windows, it's Office, it's Azure, it's Teams, it's all of the things that happen to work on a Windows PC. It's understanding what works, what doesn't work for our Insiders, and then collating that information, and then yelling at our execs to actually do the right things.

Because, you know how upper management is, they're like, "I will make my decisions because I'm a village elder." And our job is to interrupt that flow of thinking and say, "Actually, this is what our 16 million Insiders who are our biggest fans and advocates say that we should be building, so we need to take that into consideration."

Those are two things. The third thing is thinking about our community in a long-term way, so not just what our Insiders are doing today in 2019, but what are they going to be doing in the year 2025? So, I think deeply about upskilling, like what does tech mean today and what does it mean in five years? So, I've of course, got a whole bunch of, like, secret missions and goals for Insiders that I may or may not share with you guys today.

JASON HOWARD: Taking a bit of a look back, right, the Windows Insider Program is, what, in its fourth year or coming up on the fifth-year anniversary, which is going to be kind of an awesome milestone to hit.

DONA SARKAR: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: When we launched this way back when, what was it October of 2014, I think it was, it was kind of a bold experiment. We kind of broke free of the molds of how we had done preview builds and everything in the past. So, kind of reaching way back in the memory bank, can you talk a bit about where we started, how the program has evolved, you know, kind of some of the awesome things we've done over the course of time?

DONA SARKAR: Yeah. So, it all started with a story, right? Once upon a time, in a land not far from here, probably like one mile down the road, there's a very large software company who used to build many products for millions of people all over the world. And this company was full of thousands of elves who ran around and built these products day in and day out.

And once they were done building these products, they would test these products in-house and then they would throw the product over the wall to their millions of customers.

Now, the unfortunate thing was that we were building for, not building with. So, many times we're very, very surprised when, after three years of working on a product such as Windows, people are saying, "Actually, this doesn't work for me and my company or my life."

And we were like shocked and amazed, like, "Oh my God, why didn't we know this?" The answer is kind of simple, because we didn't ask from day one.

We used to do two betas a year, or two betas a release, beta one, beta two. Usually, it's too late to factor in all of the feedback that came in from the millions of people who were part of the Windows' betas.

So, we said, "Let's think about it differently for Windows 10," which is going to go from being a three-year operating system to being a twice-a-year operating system. And there's no way that we can go and build this in isolation, because obviously, it's not working. So, we realized the combination of apps, drivers and usage of previous Windows releases is greater than all of the stars in the sky.

There's no way we can account for and test all of those combinations by ourselves. Nor should we, because if we know that much about companies and governments' configurations, then we all got problems, right?

So, we decided to do something ridiculous, which was not just have a beta one day or twice a release but to have one every week. We said we're going to prerelease our operating system as we build it, so me as a dev, check in code on Monday -- and I remember this because I was a dev when this whole thing went down, so it was weird. Like, you know your code that doesn't see even your boss for like a month, yeah, now, you know, 2 million people are going to see it on Wednesday. It was terrifying.

Just from a developer's point of view, I wasn't running the program at the time I was a developer whose code is going out into the world, who is terrified but amazing, because you know how that code is going to land within the week. So, that was pretty amazing.

But what was so interesting is we thought all right, how many people are going to sign up to prerelease an operating system? You have to be a crazy person, right? Maybe like 100,000 people. But to our surprise, we had 2 million people sign up in just a matter of weeks, because people really want to have a hand in the technology they use. These are the people who say, "We're not okay with just using the tech, we actually want to co-create it with you." So, that's how the program started.

We of course, built a series of tools to make this possible, the flighting system, the feedback tool, and over the course of the last few years we've been evolving these and building new and trying to refine the program. But the soul of it, the soul of it of co-creating with rather than creating for I think has lived on.

JASON HOWARD: And that's one of the things you can see in the actual evolution of the product over the past four-plus years and counting is Windows 10 started off as an idea and the original preview builds were set one way, but then you look at the features that have come, features that have gone, right? I mean, usage and telemetry has guided a lot of what we've kept in the products, some of the things we've taken out of it, right, because dev time and costing, it's expensive, right? So, it's if there's things that aren't getting used and our customers are saying, "I didn't even know this existed, it's not something I'm going to take part in or use on a daily basis, it doesn't help me," then it doesn't make much sense to keep it in the product.

And there's other things that were like we didn't realize people used this quite this way and all of a sudden, it's getting more resources, more funding and it's blossomed into something completely different.

DONA SARKAR: Just from a dev's point of view I wish we'd had the Insider program years ago. I wish we'd had it in like Win 7. I wish we had it in Vista. Because in Win 7 I clearly remember working on a feature called Libraries. And Libraries, many of you will remember Libraries, oh my God, a very confusing feature. We had a vision; it was very hard to translate into code. The idea was you can have documents anywhere on your PC, but as long as you put them in the Documents Library you can search from them in one place.

So, think of it like a virtual file folder, but it's not in the cloud, it's on your PC locally. So you could have a docs folder, you could have, you know, a docs folder or a folder full of documents and like on your desktop, you can have it in 13 different places, but you tag them all to library and when you search the library you can search all of those docs. It sounds like a great idea. It was, in fact, not such a great idea, because people were very confused about what is a documents library compared to a documents folder.

And when they saw both they started to delete the folders thinking that it's a duplicate, and then that deletes it from the Library because the Library in fact is just a pointer to all of these different folders.

 

If we'd have had Insiders back then, we would have gotten feedback on day one like, "Yo, this is weird, and no one understands how to use this, and we keep deleting our files." And, we would have not shipped that product, we would have not shipped that feature to, you know, 1 billion people who used Windows 7.

JASON HOWARD: Sure.

DONA SARKAR: And eventually in Windows 8 we actually had to take it out, because it just did not work, and people didn't wind up using it. But putting in a feature and then ripping it out of the product is probably the most expensive thing ever. Because putting in a feature is expensive, ripping it out is actually twice as expensive, because you need to make sure no one is using it because if people are using it then you're deprecating a workflow that is super destructive. And, being able to remove and deprecate every single endpoint in an operating system is so much work.

I once had to deprecate the status bar, which maybe some of you remember, but it took maybe like two and a half years to deprecate status bar, a thing that was off by default, you didn't even know how to turn it on except for via reg key, and removing it from the product took two and a half years.

JASON HOWARD: Wow. One of the things that I have to say, just I mean, over the same course of time, right, is it's pretty amazing to watch how Insiders as a community have kind of come together over the course of time. Some of the very early days it was a bit disjointed, everybody was like, "Hey cool, it's a new build, I get to test this out or whatever." But then you see some of the natural communications start between people who are like, "Oh hey, I'm having this problem." "Oh hey, I'm having this problem too."

And one of the things that kind of sprouted up out of that which, you know, you're on Twitter, I'm on Twitter, the Insider handle is on Twitter, there's tons of us on Twitter now, Twitter is kind of a thing across many different teams and departments across Microsoft. And it's not to say that nobody had a Twitter handle before we kind of made it cool, but a lot of it came from the activities that we were engaging in, in this program. Like and the external community helped drive some of this internal community that we now have, right, where it's motivating people, they're doing their best to help evolve Windows 10, listening to feedback, driving it to be the best product that it can be.

So, like one of the questions I want to ask you is like from the evolution that you've seen, right, like what's something that even if it seems kind of normal, right, because of your past history and whatnot, like is there anything that you think is surprising that has kind of come out of the program so far?

DONA SARKAR: I think one thing that's been fascinating to me is the deep friendships, right? Because a lot of people joined thinking, "Oh, it's a cool beta test program." But the number of messages I get every week saying, "This is part of my identity, right, I am an Insider, and with every other Insider in the world I feel this deep affinity of all of us love this product and we love spending our time to make this product a better thing for everyone in the world that we care about."

And out of that comes these deep, deep friendships that last like across thousands of miles. One very, very obvious example is our friends who we made at Ignite, Paul and Eddie. Paul is an IT pro in Auckland, in New Zealand, who I met at Ignite like in 2016. Then Eddie is an IT pro in Raleigh, North Carolina, who Blair on our team met at that same Ignite in 2016 as well.

These two people, Paul and Eddie, had never met, but we had been talking about the same thing, how do you use Insider program for business on Twitter? We'd been having this conversation for about a year, and both Paul and Eddie often jumped in with their ideas and suggestions on how people can do it, because both of them were actually implementing Insider rings and Insider builds within their companies.

And Eddie works at a bank and Paul works for the government, which are of course, very traditional industries. So, they were sharing like how they convinced their management, how they actually started the rollout, how they got support, how they got everyone to be like clamoring for these prerelease builds.

So, by sharing those stories, they bonded so heavily that when we actually went to Ignite in the fall together, all of us, it was like they were long lost brothers. They were saying like, "We feel like we've known each other forever, because we are just bonded together by this program." And, to us, right? We have these deep friendships with Insiders where I consider so many of them some of my closest friends in the world. There's not a time that I go to London and don't see like Michael Gillette, Michael West, Xav, and Zach, right? There's not a time that I go to London and don't see these people. There's no time I go to Germany and don't see Rafael and Jennifer. There's no time that I'm going to go to South Africa and not see Guillermo. There's no time I'm going to go to Sydney and not see like all of these Insiders.

It's these friendships that are so much more than, "Oh, we beta test something together." Especially the ones that form on Twitter and we start forming affinity over certain topics, and when we meet in real life just how powerful that connection is.

JASON HOWARD: Having seen where it's come from, right, obviously, we've made leaps and bounds from, like you mentioned from it being kind of a tech preview type of scenario into this broader community, you know, people connecting and forming bonds and working together. Like what do you think the future of the insider program is like, where is it heading?

DONA SARKAR: So, I can't predict that, because it really will be dictated by what Insiders want and need, right? We have to co-create. We don't get to say, "This is the future of the program." Because, ultimately it is a community program and the community dictates what we need.

But one of the areas that I've seen a lot of interest from Insiders is upskilling. So, our Insiders are very technical people, right? Just by default if you're pre-releasing an operating system you're kind of a technical person.

And that doesn't mean you're a software engineer. You could be an accountant, you could be an artist, you could be retired. But you're a person who understands technology, the power of it and how to use it, and you generally are someone who is a lifelong learner. That's why you are part of the insider program, because you want to keep learning about what's next and what's coming before everyone else in the world.

So, many Insiders, especially students and people later in career, have actually reached out and said, "I love how you talk about coding all the time, I wish I could learn it too." Like, oh, very good, I love a good victim, right?

So, one of the areas that I'm going to focus on heavily, heavily this year is called upskilling. And Microsoft is very, very passionate about making sure that all of our customers are not disrupted by technology but enhanced and evolved by it.

So, we want to focus on upskilling people. What that means is someone who has no coding skills, if they would like to learn, we'd like to build a learning path so they're able to learn these skills and actually become a developer if they want to. Or, even just pick up enough coding skills to automate some of the dumb things in their life with like, Microsoft Flow or something like that.

The other one that I've heard a lot is, "I'm a traditional IT pro and I would really love to understand what this cloud thing is and make sure I'm relevant for the next 20 years."

So, I would like to work with a lot of the friends we have in the company, like the Microsoft Learn team and the Azure team, to build a learning path from Windows IT pro to cloud advocate or cloud developer or cloud architect, how can someone who is a Windows IT pro actually do these things in a very reasonable way.

So, I've been having a lot of really good conversations with people internally to the company such as Jeff Sandquist, who leads the DevRel team over in the Azure group. He leads both learning and DevRel. We were having a great conversation yesterday around the 16 million Insiders, they're such powerful people, how can we help them be even more powerful in their own lives? And he was offering me the opportunity to say, okay, why don't you pick cohorts of insiders who are interested, and we can help you create the right content to actually lead those insiders from being Windows experts to being Microsoft experts.

That's one area that I'm incredibly passionate about, because I do think we as Microsoft owe it to give back to the community more than just it being a beta program. Because I truly believe that as our Insiders become more technical and more advanced, they're going to be able to do more good things for the world.

JASON HOWARD: It's interesting that you mentioned technology getting in the way and I'll say that's one of the aspects that I kind of focus on in working with the engineering teams and reviewing feedback and doing some of the troubleshooting that I do, both internally and externally, is when a user of any of the Microsoft products, right, they're using a product because they're trying to do something. And when the product itself either, A) doesn't do something to help them solve that problem or B) is too challenging or complicated and makes solving the problem even harder than it should be, that's where I try and step in, number one, to help give some of the feedback to the team, to fix bugs if things aren't working appropriately.

And I've got to say that over the course of the past four-plus years and counting, the number of bugs that I've seen come through, it's changed. The types of bugs have changed, the focus areas on what we are putting out broadly as just different features and, you know, some of the changes that we're working on, right?

You know, we talked a little bit earlier about some of the security changes and things like that. Like it's interesting and fascinating at the same time, seeing new ways that we're trying to cut down on time of, you know, accomplishing some of the basic tasks that free people up to do some of the things that they're actually logging into Windows or, you know, connecting to a platform to try and get something done.

For me, that's one of the things that I find to be really fascinating is in communicating with the broader insider community is to figure out what's really important to them, because it's easy to sit here and be like, Windows is this static thing, what's broke and how do we fix that thing? But that's not really how Windows is going to evolve.

DONA SARKAR: No.

JASON HOWARD: It's not just fixing bugs.

DONA SARKAR: No, it really is Windows it the platform for your life, right, whatever it is you're trying to do. We Microsoft are a productivity company. That means our goal is to help you do the thing that you're trying to do better and faster. And it doesn't need to be work, right? A lot of people are like, "Oh, Microsoft just does work stuff." We're like, "Not necessarily." If you're trying to plan a trip, right, be more productive in planning that trip, if you're trying to organize your family to a wedding and not be too crazy about it, you want to make sure that it's organized in a very productive sort of way.

If you're trying to organize all of your homework and submit it to your professor without failing your class, we want to make sure you're productive in doing that.

So, Microsoft is a productivity company. We've of course got lots and lots of consumer things such as Xbox and, you know, such and such. But when I think about what Microsoft does, its superpower, it's that it enables us to be more productive. And I think the more we think about bugs in terms of what productivity is this blocking, the more likely those bugs are to get fixed.

But you're right, where the bugs have changed because they're now hyper-tactical and things that we can fix, right? It's not like, oh, this Nvidia driver is broken. It's like, I actually can't even click on this thing. We're like, "Oh my. Okay, this is not something we would have found by ourselves, because we don't have that specific configuration." I've found that to be really, really interesting.

JASON HOWARD: So, actually, I want to ask you your perspective on something. I'm going to toss out an example and I want to see what your example would be of this, right?

DONA SARKAR: Okay.

JASON HOWARD: Like, one of the big challenges that I think we haven't completely tackled it but I think we've done a good job making progress is that when something goes wrong, like a service crashes in the background, rather than it taking down the entire OS, right, things have been componentized. I'm not even sure if that's a real word but I like using it.

DONA SARKAR: It's now a word.

JASON HOWARD: It's now a word. To where the specific service may crash and bring itself back up, right?

DONA SARKAR: Right.

JASON HOWARD: Right? The rest of the OS stays up. You didn't lose that important Word document you were working on. You didn't lose the video that you were encoding, right? It's each individual thing kind of stands alone.

And by doing it that way, it also helps out on the backside, so when developers are doing debugging, right, rather than try and sort through the whole stack of, you know, the memory cache that was pulled forward, right, oh hey, I know that this one thing was dumped. I can go dig through this one individual dump rather than looking through an entire chunk of data that comes back and be like, where do I need to go look and find this.

DONA SARKAR: Right, yeah.

JASON HOWARD: What do you think is one of the big challenges that we've tackled along the way so far?

DONA SARKAR: I think that is definitely one of the things that we've done. The other one that I've found incredibly compelling is our intense focus on battery and power performance. And those are not sexy, glamorous things, right? That's not like I will demo this in front of one million people, Satya, right? He's not going to show that. But those are the things that affect people day-to-day, right? It's not the big, shiny features that affect people day-to-day, it really is battery, power and performance.

And I've discovered this of course, because I spend so much time in emerging markets where, you know, electricity is not the most common thing ever. So, when I'm over there, the battery in my laptop is everything where when we make claims like this has a 12-hour battery, this has an 18-hour battery, I'm like, oh, yeah? Okay, we'll see. Because I will actually test it because I have to. It's not because oh I have nothing else to do. But when power goes out in Lagos, Nigeria for a day and a half, I've got my laptop and no other method of communication.

So, if the battery does—and my iPhone does not last that long. So, if my battery doesn't last that long, we have no way of communicating, and that is really, really alarming.

So, I would say the battery and power and performance improvements we've made have really made a fundamental difference. And yes, they are actually not lying about the 18-hours. I have tested it many times. I actually choose the device that I'm taking depending on the country I'm going to.

So, right now Surface Book and Surface Laptop have got like phenomenal battery life, and those are the ones I wind up taking on places where we might be occasionally connected. But to a place where Wi-Fi is quite awful like, oddly Sydney, right, Wi-Fi was like pretty sketchy, the Surface Go LTE was really, really important.

So, for me, one of the things that's been really different about Windows 10 is that we're thinking about the product in a more global way. We're not just like, "Hey, it works awesome in Redmond, ship it." But we're saying, "Is this going to work everywhere in the world?" And a lot of people are like, "Oh, it just needs to work in like the West Coast of the US." We're like, "Actually that's a very small percentage of people." The rest of the world, 7.6 billion people, could use some tech that works for them as well. And I've found that this long battery life and then the Surface Go's LTE power are some of the best things that we have made as Microsoft to be globally inclusive.

JASON HOWARD: Shifting gears a little bit on you, right, we talk a lot just kind of both internally, externally and even in our team meetings we talk about this, right, like how being a Windows Insider means you have a big impact on what the future of Windows 10 is, how you can impact the future of the program. And we touched on that a little bit earlier.

So, kind of on a day-to-day basis, you know, what are some of the things that you think Insiders do that are super important that help both drives Windows, as well as drive the program itself?

DONA SARKAR: I think there's two things that Insiders do very well right now that we would love for them to keep doing because it just benefits everyone. One is, send us feedback when things are wrong, right, and let us know across the channels that they communicate with us on. Insiders choose many different ways to communicate with us. Some are via feedback hub, some are via Twitter. Please keep doing that because it's so hard for us to tell what's wrong in your situation.

There's no way that we can tell that something's not going right for you on your specific machine on this specific build with these specific apps. It's just really hard for us to know that information. So, it's very important that you tell us that.

The second one is, please continue to help your communities with technology and bring back to us the feedback from them, right? Oftentimes, I have to keep in mind that the feedback coming from insiders are from tech enthusiasts.  So, they know what they're talking about. They're fully aware of like what kind of issue they're running into. They know this is a graphics driver issue, or this is a memory issue, or a networking issue.

But most people in their lives, they're accountants, and lawyers and kids and parents, may not actually be aware, because we know many, many Insiders actually are the tech support of everyone in their lives. So, what we need from Insiders is the feedback from their communities, is to say, "Actually, no one can figure out how to log in." Or, "Actually no one can figure out how to connect to the network," or, "No one knows how to change their profile picture. No one knows how to do this. No one knows how to do that."

That is the kind of feedback that we need, because we are building a product for the global audience, and we tend to get feedback from people more like us, who are highly tech enthusiast.

And when you think about people in the world who are highly tech enthusiasts, it's only I would say 100 million people who are probably highly, highly technically competent. And 16 million of those are insiders, right? So, out of all of the other people in the world, they're not going to be as technically competent.

So, it's not a bad thing, because I don't need, you know, my brain surgeon doctor to be a tech enthusiast, I need them to be a brain surgeon enthusiast. But what we need from Insiders are bring us that feedback from the non-tech enthusiast people in your lives because that will make a better product for everyone in the world.

JASON HOWARD: One of the things that I've noticed over the course of time, and I get feedback from Insiders randomly, and I think it's more about how much they're trying to engage, is for some of them they say it can be time consuming, right?

And one of the things I say in response is, you know, in a program like this where you're using a preview build on your primary machine, even though we say, "Hey, do it on your secondary machine in case there's an interesting bug that you encounter," a lot of folks just take the risk, jump in head first, because they're that excited, number one, like you've talked about, to be able to help create this program alongside of us to help drive the future of Windows.

It's important to remind folks to only bite off as much as you can chew, right? This isn't a second job, right? Insiders --

DONA SARKAR: No.

JASON HOWARD: You know, it's a voluntary thing, it's a passion, it's fun, it's engaging, it's a good way to connect with Microsoft.

So like one of the things that I tell folks in that regard is to remember, every time we're working through a release cycle, we have bug bashes, right, where if you really want to take a period of time or rather than if you don't have time to submit, you know, ten pieces of feedback every week and, you know, every time you hit some small thing, it's important that we know about this, right, so of course we always encourage folks to submit as much as they can, you know, be as engaged as they can.

If it is a time constraint, don't forget about the bug bash, right, where we dedicate a week where every day, we drop new quests, we communicate out, "Hey this is what we're trying." And then of course, we have the webcast where we sit there and talk through some of the bugs that people are hitting, allow people to share feedback links with each other, "Hey, are you hitting this," do some of that. It's different getting to do it real time as opposed to just, "Oh, hey, I posted this up in the forum, I hope somebody replies in the next day or in the next week" or something like that, right, giving folks some of this active engagement, right?

And one of the other things that we've seen over the course of time is like some of the tech blogs and, you know, tech sites that are out there within their forums, or even their communities, right, there's like Insider subsections within their forums now—

DONA SARKAR: Oh yeah, absolutely.

JASON HOWARD: —where Insiders that love, you know, whatever particular technical site or whatever they're used to being in, they've created their own little space there and they use that to connect into the broader program.

DONA SARKAR: I totally agree with you where, just like anything, any community or anything that's really great, there is a huge chance of fatigue, right? It's like any sort of community where if you're in a backpacking community, you don't want to go every other day, you're going to be exhausted and stop enjoying it as much. It really is, no, I want to go to these mountains I've never been to. I don't know anything about backpacking, I'm just making stuff up at this point.

JASON HOWARD: You're not far from the truth.

DONA SARKAR: Yeah, okay. I just want to go to these mountains or something. I'm trying to relate with Jason, you people.

But it's like, you know, in my book club I don't read every one, I just read the ones that I'm interested in reading and talking about those. But that doesn't mean that I can't go to every one and be a spectator. But I don't want to feel the pressure of I must participate in each and everything.

And the other thing for Insiders is that we have a lot of rings. We've got Skip Ahead, we have Fast, we have Slow, and some Insiders feel like, "Oh, I must be on Skip Ahead because I must have the latest thing."

And actually, you don't have to do that because we release those. Those are quite early and they're very in the future, like it's next year. And you probably won't be seeing all of those features come to light anyway, right? It's interesting to look at but it doesn't mean that all of those are going to ship out to, you know, 700 million people in the next few weeks.

[TRC 0:50:47]

One of the things that I tell Insiders who are not in Skip Ahead but are desperate to be, and I get this question every day, "How do I get in Skip Ahead?" We said, "Look, we keep it to a very specific number of people because most Insiders help others with tech. And for you to know a lot about tech that's going to ship in a year and a half is not particularly helpful. It's way better for you to know a lot about the tech that's going to be shipping in the next three to six months."

JASON HOWARD: True.

DONA SARKAR: And those are the areas where we need your feedback and input the most rather than the feedback and input that will be shaping a product in six months to a year.

So, don't have that pressure that I must be on Skip Ahead and I must be submitting feedback every hour on it. It's a wonderful thing to do but actually it's much more relevant to be active in the thing that is going to be shipping out to your communities in three to six months.

And I agree, bug bashes are wonderful because we internally all focus heavily on trying out the product in different ways. That's when all my weird mice and keyboard combos come out, and I install builds on my pink Dell from like 2007, right? This is where during bug bash is when all this weird stuff happens and that's when we find the oddest bugs, but that's also when the product team is standing by to triage as fast as they humanly can, right? We have these—so some inside info for you Insiders is we have these internal contests to see who triaged the most bugs and found the most issues and all of these things internally.

And there's always a specific group of people who win it every time because they're really good at triaging, they're good at finding issues, they're good at triaging issues, they're good at fixing issues.

So, devs always—when I was a dev, we used to always have a contest on who can fix the most bugs from the bug bash in the most concentrated period of time. And my team, happy to say, always won because we always had a lot of weird bugs.

 

JASON HOWARD: I wonder if that helped guide you to where you are now?

DONA SARKAR: Maybe. It's like this is what you get.

So, yeah, bug bashes are great, and we highly encourage Insiders to participate because there's this strong sense of community during bug bash weeks where everyone is doing them, these quests are new, and all of the features are kind of baked and ready for usage by people.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, one of the things that you mentioned that I think is super important is you talked about bringing out the pink Dell from 2007.

DONA SARKAR: Oh yeah.

JASON HOWARD: This is one of the things that just kind of broadly that I've mentioned on, you know, a couple of the recent webcasts, even as we've been traveling around doing Ignite the Tour as of late. One of the Insiders in Sydney, he comes up to our booth, says, "Hi, excited to meet you guys. I talk to you on Twitter all the time." Was glad to make the connection.

He was like, "Okay, so these are the things that I'm doing." And he's talking about having machines in all the rings. He has helped convert, you know, his—the—where he works, convert them all from an unnamed company's products over into Microsoft products—

DONA SARKAR: Ah yeah, that's right, yeah.

JASON HOWARD: —both hardware, getting them, all running Microsoft software. Has a WiT for business environment setup within—

DONA SARKAR: So cool.

JASON HOWARD: —his company. And he's like, "What else can I do," and I'm like—

 

DONA SARKAR: I love that.

JASON HOWARD: I'm like, "I think you've pretty much checked off

DONA SARKAR: You've done the things.

JASON HOWARD: —every single box that I could sit here and recite to you." And really, the only thing more that I could kind of put on the list was in relation to the diversity of hardware and software being used.

DONA SARKAR: That's right.

JASON HOWARD: And internally obviously, when we're putting forth new hardware, we're kind of our own internal test bed. You know, we're testing the next version of Surface something at any given point in time because, hey, who better to test our own stuff than us internally?

DONA SARKAR: Us, mm-hmm.

JASON HOWARD: One of the things that I wanted to just kind of share with Insiders who are listening is the importance of if you have some old device kind of sitting in a closet or you quit using it because you thought it was too slow, or you never upgraded it from Windows 7 or Vista or 8 or 8.1 or whatever it happens to be on, if you have the time and you're willing to give it a go, put Windows 10 on there and run it for an hour a week.

Even if you just go casually surf the web, right, getting the details back from how did it handle the Windows 10 install, how does it launch the latest browser, right, what was your surfing experience like, anything that you end up doing on the device kind of helps us understand, because not every hardware type is represented in the Insider Program. And the broader that that pool becomes, it helps us fine tune the OS to what you mentioned earlier between battery life, and speed, and performance, and connectivity, because not everybody in the world has the ability to go to a Microsoft store that's two minutes from their house and pick up the latest and greatest Surface whatever.

There are literally millions, if not hundreds of millions of people across the globe that are running older hardware, because it's either A) what they have access to or B) what they can afford. And their experience is not any less important than the experience on somebody who is running the latest and greatest Surface Book as an example.

DONA SARKAR: That is so true. That's one of the things that's so hard for us, because we have these crazy test labs, but there's no way, we can keep up with all of the different kinds of hardware that's available around the world. Because what's available in say Brazil is not actually available to us. And sometimes we don't even know these are devices that exist in the world, right?

 

Jason, you have been to China many times, so you know many of the hardware types that roll out there, we never have access to.

JASON HOWARD: True.

DONA SARKAR: We will never be able to have access to. And we can't smuggle them into the country without going to jail, so we just can't test on those things.

So, we definitely need the feedback from you Insiders who are using these things, and better yet, have people in your life use them, because you actually know how to use this technology very well and you're used to a certain way of doing things. And, the people in your life, parents, kids, siblings, whatever, they may not be as comfortable with technology, and their feedback actually matters a lot, because that's going to make a better product for all of the people who are not quite as tech enthusiast as you and I and all of our Insiders.

JASON HOWARD: Sure.

DONA SARKAR: So, I have a question for you. We have been going around the world on these Ignites, right? Before it would be like, "Okay, we have two conferences a year," and we all like, you know, gather up and go. But now we have an Ignite like every other week. And this is your first like foray of really talking about IT content all over the world over and over again. What do you think?

JASON HOWARD: Oh, it's exciting, right? Holding apart the travel side of it, because the travel in and of itself is amazing, getting to go and see new places, places I've never been, places I never thought I'd ever get a chance to travel to, you go and meet people, you experience their culture, you experience a bit of their daily life, the surroundings, the environment, you get to compare how different it is on what I do on a daily basis where I live compared to how life is somewhere completely different.

But for me, the thing that I get the most out of isn't just trying a new restaurant, which, don't get me wrong, everybody that knows me knows I love tacos, right, so I'm always hunting for—

[TRC 0:57:36]

DONA SARKAR: He always wants Mexican in every city we go to. We need to eat Mexican food. Just saying. We're running around looking for Mexican food in Sydney.

JASON HOWARD: But, I mean, focusing more on the work front, it's really about connecting with people in the way that, number one, helps them have a chance to meet us and talk to us. Because it's different when somebody is submitting a piece of feedback or posting up on an answers forum or doing something where it feels very one way, where it's like information is going in. Usually, there's a response coming back, but you don't get that human effect.

DONA SARKAR: That's right. It's asynchronous, too, right? It's like okay, they post, you respond, they post, you respond.

JASON HOWARD: You end with this just kind of a back and forth until hopefully some sort of resolution or solution comes from it.

But when you have a chance to actually get there and shake somebody's hand and look them in the eye and have that conversation, it puts a completely different spin on the interactions.

And I will say that for me, just me as a human being, right, is, I don't know, as cliché as that might sound, having the opportunity to meet with people and have some of these face-to-face discussions and listen to the things that are important to them, because everybody else uses technology either a little bit differently or a whole lot differently than I do, there's the whole sliding scale.

And different countries and different things that are important to people and what kind of bugs they're facing and the things that their families are doing and what's important to them and how work functions differently in a different country than here in the US and especially outside of Microsoft.

There is no substitution for having some of that firsthand experience. Because you can connect to a certain extent just in basic text communication but putting names to faces and getting some of that direct interaction takes it to a whole new level.

And then having the chance to get up on stage and speak like at Ignite in Orlando last year, standing up in a theater session that was really slated to hold 50 to 75 people—

DONA SARKAR: And you had like 500.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, and I look out and there's just an entire sea of people standing there. And I'm like, "I wasn't ready for this, but we're going anyway." There's no stopping at that point, right?

DONA SARKAR: Nope.

JASON HOWARD: So, it's helped me both as a human being and as an employee here at Microsoft. Like every single time I do something like, this it helps enhance my perspective and lets me think about things a little bit differently.

DONA SARKAR: That's good. I feel like the Ignites especially, like Insider Dev Tour last June did this for us, but Ignite is I think even more so, because it's spread out and we're all going, has really pushed us out of our comfort zone. It's made us get really comfortable with showing up in a city we may never have been in, setting up a booth and talking to a whole bunch of strangers.

And I, of course, love it and I know— this is my favorite thing, you guys, is to go into strange cities and talk to strangers. The team, they've adjusted really well. For a while, I'm like I don't know if they're going to like this, but they've actually adjusted quite well to it.

And what's super interesting is the friends we make around the world, right? And these people we meet really do become friends. We start exchanging these stories and suddenly we're like, "Okay, can't wait to see you next year at this thing." And then it becomes like this reunion of sorts.

So, it's wonderful. It's my favorite thing in the world to meet Insiders face-to-face. People point out like are you ever not on a plane? Very rarely, because for me to sit in Redmond, Washington and do our work is fine and it's good, but that actually keeps me from talking to the people who we should be listening to and co-creating with on a day-to-day basis. And I'm really, really excited to see that our team's travel and conference schedules, they're not lessening.

Just before this, Vivek on our team and I were planning our Insider Dev Tour again. Just preview, Dev Tour is coming you guys, so we're going to be hitting up some large amount of cities talking to our devs and aspiring devs all over the world. But this time, Jason is going to go too and talk about dev things. Before then, he has to do dev things. It's a fun little deadline for Jason to go to. I just assigned him homework on camera.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, yeah. If you all didn't pick up on that I've been given homework.

DONA SARKAR: He got given homework. He's going to have to do a whole bunch of coding activities before he shows up and teaches you guys how to do a whole bunch of coding activities.

JASON HOWARD: More than just the hour of code that comes around each year?

DONA SARKAR: Yeah, no.

JASON HOWARD: I'm going to have to actually buckle down on this.

As we wrap up here, right, like are there any insightful parting word? I mean, you can say this a million different ways, but like what do you want to leave Insiders with? For everybody that's tuned in and listening to us, like what's something that you want to like kind of hand them before we check out?

DONA SARKAR: I would say, okay, let's leave them with three things. One, Windows Insider program is not just for Windows, it is for every product at Microsoft, because every product at Microsoft actually does work on Windows or with Windows very, very well. So, go and try out Microsoft products all-up and send us feedback, because we are actually in a unique opportunity and position to yell at any engineering team in the company.

We can flounce engineering teams all over, whether it's like SQL or Visual Studio, and holler at them on behalf of you. Think of us as your internal bouncers for yelling, mostly Jason is the internal bouncer.

The second thing is, think about upskilling. Think about the things in your life that you'd like to get better at. And this doesn't just mean if you're a student. Joe on our team, who organizes our events, he used to work in marketing, and he's been telling me, "You know what, I want to learn coding skills and be a dev." I'm like, "Great. Reskilling." That's going to be a thing that we do with Joe and all of the other people in the world who think it's too late for them to learn technical skills.

The third thing and most importantly, we absolutely cannot do this without you. Thank you so much for being a part of our community.

JASON HOWARD: For sure. Well, Dona I've got to say, I mean, I get to talk to you all the time, right, that's the joy of the employee/boss relationship.

DONA SARKAR: Is that what we call it? Wow. This is what we call it, where I tell him what to do, he doesn't do it, and then he complains he didn't do it. Then I tell him to pick up the cake knife and run into it and he's like fine.

JASON HOWARD: Then he shakes his fist angrily at me and I chuckle.

DONA SARKAR: He cackles and leaves, because it's Taco Tuesday. Yeah, that's what we call the employee/boss relationship around here, everyone. Yeah, it's very strict.

JASON HOWARD: It's super fun and there's a whole lot of repercussions. Oh, my goodness. Well, I've got to say, thanks a bunch for stopping in.

DONA SARKAR: Thank you. Thanks for hosting these podcasts. This is fun.

JASON HOWARD: It's a ton of work.

DONA SARKAR: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: Till next time. I will see you back at the office obviously.

DONA SARKAR: Or not, because I'm getting on a plane now.

JASON HOWARD: That's right you fly out again.

DONA SARKAR: I'm flying out again. All right.

JASON HOWARD: I will see you when I see you.

DONA SARKAR: Bye everyone. See you next month.

(Music.)

JASON HOWARD: And that's a wrap for the first episode of season two. Thank you for sticking with us through the hiatus. To everyone who has listened to the show, thank you for making us one of the top podcasts of Microsoft. It's great to be back and I'm already looking forward to the next episode.

If you have ideas on topics you'd like to hear us cover in upcoming episodes, feel free to drop us a message on Twitter. The handle is @WindowsInsider.

And if you liked this episode of the Windows Insider Podcast, don't forget to subscribe via your favorite podcast app, or you can listen to our past episodes via the website insider.windows.com.

But wait, there's one more relevant thing. We always want to provide you with useful insights and enlightenment beyond Windows. If you're interested in hearing more about the products offered by Microsoft and gaining information on future development, design, usage and more, tune into another great Microsoft podcast, The Intrazone. It's a show about the SharePoint intelligent intranet. Visit aka.MS/theintrazone, spelled i-n-t-r-a-z-o-n-e, or look for The Intrazone wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening and I'm your host Jason Howard. Until next time.

Oh, I have to record that last sentence four different ways. Okay, alright.

You're listening to Episode 18: Windows Hello and We're Back.

You're listening to Episode 18: Authenticate This. (Laughter.) Ah, jeeze, are you serious? I can’t not laugh when I read that.

Episode 18: Not your Mother's Robocop. I don’t know who came up with these but, what does that even mean?

NARRATION: The Windows Insider podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn, that's me, Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang. Visit us on the web at insider.windows.com. Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter.

Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Please subscribe, rate and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.

Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders.